Sustainably sourced coffee

The quality and aromatic profile of coffee reflect where it comes from – its terroir, the health of the soil and the local environment.

The regions where we source our coffees are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Extreme temperature fluctuations, heavy rainfall and droughts pose serious risks to coffee crops.

We knew that to secure a consistent supply of high-quality, sustainably grown coffee, we needed to work directly with farmers. So, in 2003, we partnered with the internationally recognised NGO the Rainforest Alliance to create a program that would safeguard the future of sustainable coffee agriculture, and enrich the lives of farmers and their communities. The Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program was born.

What is unique about the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program is that it is a tailor-made approach to sourcing high-quality sustainable coffee that addresses quality, sustainability and productivity as well as tackles some of the wider systemic challenges facing the coffee sector. Through the AAA Program we work with farmers to improve the yield and quality of their harvests, while protecting the environment and improving their livelihoods. We pay premium prices and we invest in coffee infrastructures and special projects (for example: agroforestry).



Coffee is a crop that requires technical knowledge. Dedicated agronomists provide training on sustainable agricultural practices, boosting farmer expertise and skillset while allowing them to improve the quality and productivity of their coffee. Some measures are quite simple, such as showing farmers how to hand-harvest only the cherries that have reached the perfect ripeness. Others are more complex, such as how to ‘stump’ a coffee tree – cutting it right back – to improve its yield. We also work with farmers to develop new processes that enhance the quality and bring out characteristics of their coffees. For example, AAA farmers implement a fertilization program based on annual soil and leaf analysis, which is interpreted by an agronomist to determine the precise amount of nutrients required for each coffee plot, ensuring productivity, but also high quality cherries. Another example is integrated crop management practices, such as planting wind barriers, which can mitigate the infestation of pests and diseases, ensuring healthy crops.

Adopting new processes and experimenting new techniques requires trust, something we can only achieve due to our long-standing relationship with the farmers we work with.



The AAA Program sets rigorous sustainability standards, 39 criteria in total, 13 of which covering the environmental and social dimensions specifically.

Environment includes water use, soil conservation and deforestation prevention, while social comprises ocupacional safety, fair treatment of workers and the prohibition of child labour.

Today, 400 Nespresso agronomists are working on the ground with more than 110,000 AAA farmers in 14 countries, helping them incorporate sustainable coffee farming practices and providing them with the tools, training and techniques to help them improve the quality and productivity of their farms.

The farmers earn a premium for the higher quality coffee they sell to Nespresso, improve their income as productivity increases year-on-year, and protect environmental and social resources while building a sustainable future. We also buy from the same farmers in the AAA Program year after year to guarantee the aromatic profile and the quality of our coffees for our customers.


The Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program also seeks to build resilience within coffee farming communities, protecting them against the consequences of climate change and other environmental and social risks.

Community milling

Many smallholder coffee farmers process coffee cherries on their land, which often requires a lot of water and can lead to water contamination downstream, due to a lack of proper water treatment.

In 2010, we partnered with the cooperative of Antioquia, Cafexport and USAID to build a new coffee milling facility for one longstanding community of coffee farmers in Jardín, Colombia. This helped to reduce the environmental impacts of coffee processing while also improving the consistency of the coffee quality.

The coffee mill has transformed the lives of the farmers and their communities, saving 200 farmers up to four hours of processing time a day, and reducing water pollution and usage by over 60%.

A farmer pension scheme

In 2014, we created the AAA Farmer Future Program, a pioneering new pension scheme developed in partnership with Fairtrade International, the Colombian government and cooperatives in Caldas.

The program, which contributes to the retirement funds of coffee farmers, helps smallholders save for the future and safeguard their legacy, encouraging the next generation to stay with coffee farming.

Agroforestry – Planting trees

Since 2014, we’ve been working with Pur Projet and TechnoServe to protect and strengthen coffee farming by planting shade trees. We’ve planted 4.5 million native trees in coffee farms across Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Kenya, Nicaragua and Uganda. By 2020, our goal is to plant 5 million trees in and around our global farming communities.

Agroforestry models – where coffee is grown under the canopy of other trees – are uniquely valuable to coffee cultivation. Trees help absorb carbon dioxide, enrich the soil, reduce erosion, regulate water use and increase biodiversity. They also provide a diversified source of income to farmers so that they are not dependent on a single crop.


The Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program also focuses on addressing wider systemic challenges facing the coffee sector by setting up partnerships with organisations that bring relevant expertise and a strong commitment to transform practices for a more sustainable future.

Today, Nespresso is part of these public-private partnerships:
1.    The “Manos al Agua” platform in Colombia to build knowledge on natural capital and integrated landscape management;
2.    The “Consórcio Cerrado das Águas” in Brazil to leverage efforts of landscape stakeholders and build a resilient watershed;
3.    The International Platform for Insetting (IPI) in France to share best practices on how to manage socio‑environmental costs within the value chain;